EU e-commerce law comes into force

27 Feb 2003

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Mary Harney TD, has signed regulations to bring into effect provisions of the EU’s Electronic Commerce Directive. The regulations came into force on Monday.

The new regulations provide for the free movement of information society services within the European economic area. These are essentially services (as distinct from products) provided online between one member state and another – frequently referred to as the single market principle or the country of origin rule.

The basic provision of the regulations is that service providers that comply with the rules and regulations of their own member state do not have to comply with the rules and regulations for that service laid down by any other member state to which they might be supplying the service.

Making the announcement, the Tánaiste said: “The entry into force of these regulations is an important element in completing the European single market in the provision of online services. Important obligations are provided in respect of service providers as well as essential protection for consumers of such services.”

An important provision from the point of view of consumers’ perspective is that the regulations require people sending unsolicited mail, or spam, to ensure that these are clearly identifiable as such by the recipient.

Harney confirmed that her department is in discussions with the Irish Direct Marketing Association (IDMA) regarding the use by the IDMA’s members of the letters ADV (advertisement) or UCE (unsolicited commercial email) on the subject line to persons with whom they have never previously had a commercial relationship.

The regulations create an exemption from liability for internet service providers (ISPs) in certain respects and circumstances. The department intends to have discussions with the ISPs and intellectual property interests in relation to the practical operation of these provisions of the regulations. (The adoption of codes of practice to supplement certain provisions, including those relating to the liability of intermediary service providers, is encouraged by the EU directive involved.) ISPs and a number of organisations representing intellectual property holders have already indicated their willingness to work with the department in this regard.

A guide to the regulations is available on the department’s website ( The directive itself and the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 are already available on the site.

By Brian Skelly